August 05, 2020

Hirono, Gillibrand, Smith, and Colleagues Introduce Impact Aid Infrastructure Act to Boost School Infrastructure Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), along with her colleagues Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced the Impact Aid Infrastructure Act (IAIA), which provides $1 billion in supplemental funding for school infrastructure construction grants through the Impact Aid program. Similar legislation was introduced in the House last year.

IAIA provides competitive and formula grants for school infrastructure projects, including school construction and facilities upgrades, in school districts with high percentages of children with military parents or children living on Indian lands. With these grants, school districts would have the flexibility to focus on their specific renovation and repair needs, which could include changes to help protect the health, safety, and well-being of students, teachers, school leaders, and school personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) estimates that Hawaii would receive at least $17.8 million through the bill.

“As schools in Hawaii prepare to open in the coming weeks following coronavirus-related delays, it is essential they have the expanded tools to protect students, their families, and staff. This bill would increase critical funding to help school districts across the country meet their specific infrastructure needs, so that every child, regardless of where they live, receives a quality education in a healthy and safe learning environment,” Senator Hirono said. “I will continue to advocate for federal resources to support our nation’s schools, including through long-term investments in school infrastructure that keep students safe." 

“Even before the pandemic, many federally impacted school districts were in need of significant repair and renovation to provide a safe learning environment -- now, they must be able to accommodate remote learning and public health guidelines to protect the health of students, teachers, and staff,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Impact Aid Infrastructure Act is critical legislation to ensure these school districts can address the unique needs presented by this crisis and make the necessary repairs and renovations to ensure students, teachers, and staff have safe learning and working environments. I’m proud to lead this legislation with Senator Hirono and I will continue working to include this desperately needed funding in the next relief package so that schools on or near military communities, Federal or Tribal Lands in New York and across the country have the resources needed to provide every student with a quality education.” 

“As schools in Minnesota and across the country prepare for a new school year, they are facing unprecedented challenges in preparing a safe school environment for students, teachers and support staff,” said Senator Smith. “Even prior to the pandemic, many Impact Aid schools already had significant infrastructure needs. These grants would allow them to address infrastructure needs that are critically important to helping students learn and helping teachers teach.”

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect communities in California and across the nation, school districts need our support. We must ensure all schools have the resources they need to provide safe and healthy learning environments for their students. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Impact Aid Infrastructure Act to give federally impacted school districts the assistance they need to continue to serve our communities during this public health emergency and beyond,” Senator Harris said.

“As we continue to confront this pandemic, it’s important to ensure that school districts can provide a quality education to their students - even those schools without the ability to fund their operations through property taxes," Senator Klobuchar said. “This legislation will help ensure that even during these challenging times, local school districts in Minnesota on federal land can retain the teachers, technology, and transportation they need to help students succeed." 

“By addressing the backlog of Impact Aid projects, we can help federally impacted school districts in New Mexico repair or rebuild decades-old infrastructures,” said Senator Heinrich. “That is why I am proud to help introduce legislation that ensures these school districts have access to critical infrastructure funding so that we can improve the quality of education for all of our students.”

“The infrastructure and facilities needs in federally impacted school districts, which educate some of our nation’s most vulnerable children, are well documented – as is their disadvantage in raising funds for capital projects due to the presence of federal property,” said NAFIS Executive Director Hilary Goldmann. “The Impact Aid Construction program has been underfunded for years. Particularly as these districts reopen school buildings in the context of COVID-19, they need additional resources to ensure school facilities are safe for students and staff to learn and work. NAFIS strongly supports this legislation, which will help them do so.”

“The Impact Aid program recognizes the kuleana (responsibility) created by the significant federal presence in our islands and the associated impacts on both our island's tax base and demand for services, including educational services. For decades this program has played a critical role in supporting a quality educational experience for all public school students,” said Brian Hallett, Assistant Superintendent and CFO of the Hawaii State Department of Education’s Office of Fiscal Services.

As the Senate Impact Aid Coalition co-chair, Senator Hirono has strongly and consistently supported Impact Aid. Earlier this year, in March, she signed a letter requesting strong and continued funding for the program in Fiscal Year 2021. More recently, in May, the Senator signed a letter requesting robust funding for the program in the next coronavirus emergency stimulus package. Last year, Impact Aid received around $1.5 billion for Fiscal Year 2020. Hawaii received $47.8 million through the program.

Senator Hirono has continued to advocate federal funding for school infrastructure projects. Last year, in January, she cosponsored S. 266, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act (RASA), which provides $100 billion for school infrastructure. In April, the Senator signed a letter requesting the same amount for school infrastructure in the stimulus package.